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Silent epidemic: the abuse of fast food already causes more cirrhosis than alcohol


The population presents excess fat in the liver when one fifth of their diet is based on these products. They say it will be the main cause of transplantation.

The abuse of fast food can bring many health problems.

Fatty liver


a condition in which excess fat accumulates in liver cells, is one of the most frequent and it is estimated that, in the coming decades, it will increase along with obesity and a sedentary lifestyle.

In fact, it is very likely that the consumption of fast foods, through the development of


fatty liver (known as hepatic steatosis), replaces alcohol consumption as a cause of cirrhosis.

This is revealed by a recently published scientific study and corroborated by specialists consulted by


Non-alcoholic fatty liver (NAFLD) is the most frequent

chronic liver disease

in the world, with a prevalence of 20-30% in the general population and 60-80% in risk groups. 

Argentina is the

fourth country in Latin America

in the consumption of ultra-processed foods.

According to data from the Argentine Society of Gastroenterology (SAHE), it is estimated that between 20% and 30% of the adult population in Argentina has fatty liver, although the prevalence varies depending on the region and associated risk factors, such as


. , diabetes and excessive alcohol consumption.

“The western world is going through an epidemic of sedentary lifestyle and obesity.

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease will be the next epidemic in hepatology.

In the near future,

it will be

the leading cause of indication for liver transplantation

in the Western world”, describes Raúl Adrover, a specialist in hepatology at the San Roque de Gonnet Hospital.

Non-alcoholic fatty liver

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease encompasses a wide spectrum of clinical situations ranging from the presence of only fat (simple steatosis), development of liver inflammation (steatohepatitis), to cirrhosis and liver cancer.

In general, it is asymptomatic.

“Less than 5% of liver cells

can contain fat.

When this percentage is exceeded, we speak of hepatic steatosis, which is mild between 10% and 30%, moderate between 30% and 60%, and severe in more than 60% of the cells with fat," describes Raúl Adrover, a specialist in hepatology, Hospital San Rock of Gonnet.

And it defines: "Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease -along with cardiovascular diseases, dyslipidemia (increased cholesterol and/or triglycerides in the blood), obesity and type 2 diabetes- is a non-communicable chronic disease and constitutes the

main threat

to health: it represents 73% of the deaths in our country”.

alarming data

According to data from the Ministry of Health,

6 out of 10 adults

are overweight, which increases the risk of having more than 200 conditions such as chronic liver diseases.

The problem affects all age ranges since 30% of school-age children are overweight and 6% are obese.

In research published in the scientific journal 'Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology', they found that people with obesity or diabetes who

eat fast food for 20% or more

of their daily calories have significantly higher levels of liver fat than those who eat less. amount or none of fast food.

The continuous intake of these foods increased the incidence of fatty liver that is present in 25% of the world population.

"The need for liver transplantation is linked to liver disease caused by fatty liver in numbers that are

very close to that of other toxins such as alcohol

and chronic viral diseases of the liver," says Horacio Rubio, former president of the Pan-American Society of Endoscopy. digestive.

In the last 10 years, the need for liver transplantation for diseases related to fatty liver

increased by 170%


14% due to hepatitis C and 45% due to alcohol.

It must also be clarified that genetic factors have an influence on the development of fatty liver, on the evolution towards Steatohepatitis and finally cirrhosis”, says Rubio, who is also Director of the Center for the Study of Digestive Diseases (CEED).

“It is known that the consumption of ultra-processed foods in excess, together with other unhealthy habits, such as a sedentary lifestyle, is associated with the

development of type 2 diabetes and obesity


but it is unknown if its continuous intake is directly related to the development of fatty liver, indicates Pablo Calzetta, a specialist in gastroenterology and hepatology.

Fast food, fatty liver and cirrhosis

“The abuse of fast food generates obesity and insulin resistance (tendency to diabetes).


the perfect storm for fatty liver


The only cause of liver transplantation that continues to increase is fatty liver that leads to cirrhosis”, underlines Esteban González Ballerga, head of the gastroenterology service at the Hospital de Clínicas and vice president of the Argentine Society of Hepatology.

Guillermo Camus is head of the gastroenterology service at the Spanish Hospital in Mendoza.

In dialogue with


, he explains: "The sedentary lifestyle associated with the high level of overweight and obesity causes patients with fatty liver to generate a pathology called

non-alcoholic steatohepatitis

and these cases are increasing.

In fact, cirrhosis due to fatty liver is becoming more frequent than cirrhosis due to alcohol".

Can fast food abuse cause more cirrhosis than alcohol?

Fast food is often high in saturated fat, sodium, and added sugars, and low in essential nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

Several studies have shown that people who consume large amounts of fast food are at increased risk of developing NAFLD, a form of the disease that

is not related to alcohol consumption


“It is important to limit consumption of fast food and eat a balanced and healthy diet that includes a variety of nutritious and fresh foods, such as fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and healthy fats.

Maintaining an active lifestyle and exercising regularly can also help prevent fatty liver and other chronic diseases," recommends Diana Krasniansky, a specialist in internal medicine, hepatology and liver transplantation.

A National Survey of Risk Factors shows that the consumption of healthy foods in our country is below what is recommended. 

Regarding sugar intake, our country is in the fourth place with the highest consumption in the world and sugary drinks represent approximately 40% of this consumption.

“In Argentina, in 2022, there was

a 20% increase in hamburger orders

compared to the previous year.

A combo that includes a burger, sugary drink, and fries can be between 1,500 and 2,200 calories.

This represents almost the average daily requirement of a healthy adult in a single meal”, illustrates Adrover, who is also a member of the Hepatology Clinical Research team at the Italian Hospital of La Plata.

Studies in Argentina

Although there is no published clinical research on fast food and liver disease in Argentina, according to Krasniasky, there are several relevant studies on fatty liver that have investigated the prevalence, risk factors, and consequences of this condition in the population.

“They can help inform public health policies and programs that address this disease in the country,” Krasniasky assesses.

One of the most relevant is the Fatty Liver Prevalence Study that was carried out in 2015 and 2016. It found that the prevalence of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) in the general population of Argentina was 31.9


, which indicates that this condition is a significant public health problem in the country.

Another interesting analysis is the Study of the Prevalence of Liver Disease in the City of Buenos Aires (EPREBAC), which was carried out in 2011. The research found that the prevalence of fatty liver in the adult population of the City of Buenos Aires was


, which indicates that the prevalence of this disease in the Argentine population is

similar to that of other Latin American countries


In addition, there are several studies that have explored the risk factors associated with fatty liver in the Argentine population.

For example, one that was published in 2017 found that obesity and insulin resistance are important risk factors for the development of fatty liver.



there is no specific pharmacological treatment

and all therapeutic measures are focused on maintaining a healthy diet and promoting physical activity.

“In our country, there are several phase 3 pharmacological clinical research trials for patients with this disease and probably, in the near future, we will have drugs that will help treat it,” Adrover distinguishes.

And Camus reinforces: "There are medications in experimentation, but nothing works if it is not associated with a diet, regular physical activity that results in a decrease in weight, control of glycemia and lipidemia."


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Source: clarin

All life articles on 2023-03-22

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